The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Europe, North and Central Asia (ECARO) held a regional workshop on “Agriculture and Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction in the Western Balkans” on 31 October 2017 in Belgrade, Serbia. The workshop gathered national representatives from Western Balkan countries, aiming to raise their awareness about ways to reduce disaster risks and mitigate effects of climate change by applying an ecosystem-based approach.
Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) is an integral part of Nature-based Solutions (NbS), an umbrella concept for all ecosystem-based approaches focused on supporting development of sustainable societies, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits. NbS strive to address major societal challenges, such as food security, climate change, water security, human health, disaster risk, social and economic development. “In order to reduce the impacts of natural hazards and climate change while implementing DRR interventions at farm level, we must better understand and address the underlying causes and impacts that hazards have on the entire landscape. This means involving all relevant institutions and stakeholders into the process” explained Ms Sanja Pokrajac, Programme Officer for Nature-based Solutions in IUCN ECARO.
Western Balkans faced extreme floods in the past decade followed by landslides in some countries. Prolonged periods of drought are expected in subsequent years which will directly impact on harvesting and production of crops, thus affecting food security. “In the second half of this century prolonged periods of drought will be normal climatic conditions during summer months. On the other hand we can expect intensification of extreme rainfall. Applying principles of Eco-DRR would mean storing rain water at the time of heavy rainfall for use during extreme drought”, explained Professor Vladimir Djurdjevic, from the Institute of Meteorology, Faculty of Physics, University of Belgrade.
Disaster events are increasing in their frequency around the world. The agriculture sector is significantly impacted by natural hazards. “The sector absorbed approximately 22% of the economic impact caused by medium and large scale natural hazards in developing countries during the 2003-2013 period” noted Tamara van‘t Wout, International consultant on DRR, during her presentation at the workshop.
The workshop is one of the outputs of the FAO project ‘Enhancement of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) capacities and mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) practices into the Agricultural Sector in the Western Balkans’. “FAO and IUCN ECARO reached an understanding that cooperation between sectors of agriculture and environment is fundamental, and that is a win-win approach. This workshop is a start of the process in Western Balkans to reach that aim”, stated Mr. Reuben Sessa, Climate Change, DRR and Energy Coordinator for Europe and Central Asia, FAO.
In order to address future challenges countries should identify ways forward and help facilitate the planning, design and implementation of future cooperation projects. A short policy brief will be prepared as one of the outcomes of the workshop and shared with policy makers in the five Western Balkan countries to raise the awareness, and it will be used as a starting point for further discussions about future initiatives in the region.